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Holiday Gift Ideas for Elders in Assisted Living or Skilled Nursing Centers

Making the right choices for your loved ones

Making good gift selections for people in assisted living residences or at skilled nursing centers can feel challenging. Here are 25 ideas (most low cost, some free) that could make their holidays brighter and happier. There’s bound to be something just right for you!

  • A small photo album of a wedding or other celebration in which the gift recipient appears is often enjoyed. A group of photos that includes family members and a note tucked into the album expressing love for the person adds even more meaning.
  • Single photos are often good bets. Is there one of the resident in their younger days, or a family or group shot from way-back-when that flatters them and recalls a happy time? That’s something for sharing with the care staff and the resident’s friends where they live, showing “who” they were many years ago.
  • Digital picture frames can be ideal for these residents. You load photos and can update them as needed. The photos are displayed on a rotating loop, which means many can be included. The frames also only need an outlet to operate. Just be sure the resident can see the electronic screen clearly before you purchase one.
  • Fresh flowers are a delight enjoyed by both men and women. Be sure to freshen the bouquet when you visit, by changing the water and trimming the ends to keep them going. Be certain you don’t bring insects in with your homegrown flowers. If you can afford it, sign up for a flower of the month club, and give a resident the luxury of receiving fresh flowers on a regular basis. You have the option to buy the arrangements monthly, or by 3- or 6-month periods.
  • Books remain a favorite with many residents, and new ones that can be shared once read are a welcome addition to the library where they live. Providing several titles in a favorite genre is a nice approach, be it science fiction, thrillers, or a particular series. Also consider large print editions, which are available for many popular books, and don’t forget to visit your local library for sales on large print editions at low prices.
  • Books on CD for those who cannot read on their own any longer work well. Libraries stock a supply of titles if buying audio books is too pricey. Of course, first be sure the resident can manage the player for them.
  • Subscriptions to books on tape means you can buy the service, and the resident will get new books when the others are returned. Again, be sure the resident can manage the player before setting this up.
  • Holiday decorations for their door are nice, including small holiday wreaths. Dishes of favorite candies for sharing are another good gift.
  • Puzzles and crossword books are popular and not expensive, and can be purchased in large print editions.
  • Newspaper subscriptions are often of interest; perhaps one from their hometown? If you visit regularly, take them your own papers to read (and remove them once read, to keep them from piling up).
  • Magazine subscriptions can be a big hit; there are magazines for all sorts of interests as well as the more general ones, and besides, people love to receive mail.
  • Hobby supplies are always wanted, and can be inexpensive, from yarn for knitting, sketch books, birdwatching books, etc. If their eyesight has been hampering continuing these life-sustaining interests, magnifiers, small lights that focus well or other devices may help.
  • An assortment of greeting cards for them to send can be just right, especially if you include a book of stamps. That way they can continue a habit of sending birthday greetings and holiday cards just as they had always done.
  • A family calendar is another fine idea. Choose a subject the resident likes and fill in the calendar with the dates of special family events. Also ask a staff member to note events at the center such as socials, pizza nights, outings, etc., in which the resident may be interested.
  • Coffee cups that can be customized are a surprise worth the effort. You can insert photos or children’s art work. Residents often want and need to keep water nearby, and having such a special container helps.
  • Manicures and supplies for them make many women happy You can make this gift more special by providing the manicure service yourself, perhaps for other residents as well.
  • Beauty supplies for women that include lipstick or lip balm, hair clips, blush and/or hand cream are good choices.
  • Inexpensive jewelry is another good choice. Pins and brooches are easy to handle, if earrings or necklaces are difficult to manage.
  • Write letters for them or read aloud to them to create special time together. Plenty of good conversation develops from this.
  • Short excursions can be a marvelous break for residents. Something as simple as going out for ice cream can be a special treat. A trip to the mall for a new outfit, or to the grocery store, is also a fine idea.
  • Attending a sports event or performance involving your children is a thrill and connects family members. If the person can’t do the entire time, don’t forego the trip; just bring them back when they need to go.
  • Bring your children to visit them at their center. Keep a close eye on what youngsters are exposed to there, but don’t keep them away.
  • Bring your pet to visit, if it’s allowed by the center. Many residents have had to leave their pets behind and would love a visit with a dog or cat. It’s also a good time to visit other residents to share that joy.
  • Gift certificates or tickets to plays, movies or museums you’ll attend with them are good gifts. A homemade card or note promising lunch out together is just as welcome. Plays needn’t be expensive; many community theaters give excellent performances at low prices.
  • The gift of time is the most important one you can provide. If you live far away, plan a visit, even if it’s not at holiday time. Talk with them about various things going on in your family life. Ask their advice. Ask them about their lives; there will be interesting stories you’ve never heard. Visit often, and stay a short time, as long visits can be wearing. Even 10 minutes is appreciated—and possible for most of us to do.

Most important of all, don’t leave things unsaid. Tell them out loud how much they mean to you. And, don’t wait: do it now.

SALMON Health and Retirement